Understanding the Changing Nature of Public Relations (PR)

As we move further into 2016, it’s an appropriate time for PR firms to reflect on the changing nature of their industry. What’s changing in the tools available and the expectations of customers?

As noted in PR Week, customers of PR firms are starting to demand a more robust offering, encompassing services previously provided by marketing agencies, design firms and data analytics organizations. All of this means that communications organizations need to start getting more sophisticated as customers seek more of a one-stop-shop approach from a tech-savvy provider.

Overall, the lines have definitely blurred between pure PR and advertising, and it is increasingly difficult to separate the two. In fact, more and more, we’re finding that, at least for the clients we work with (primarily B2B service industry clients), we rely much less on traditional paid advertising and much more on PR/online communications.

Measurable Results Driven by Big Data

Clients have never been satisfied just with press coverage and placements; this was true prior to the Internet and content marketing — and is still true today. Clients always have — and always should — be looking for specific, measurable results, otherwise their efforts really don’t matter.

We are still using a combination of process (placements, backlinks, etc.), and outcome (sales leads, inquiries, actual sales) measures to gauge the effectiveness of our activities. Each client is different in terms of how they set goals — in some cases, particularly for new organizations, initial goals are based around awareness; more mature firms are generally more focused on lead or sales goals. We do tend to find that online activity such as social media engagement, website traffic, etc. can be a good leading indicator of downstream, outcome-related activity, so we tend to look at a combination of both of these types of metrics.

Variety of Outlets

As Fifth Avenue Brands notes, the era in which PR professionals worked directly with a select few reputable and well-established media outlets is fast eroding. Today, anyone can post information about their organization on social media and other online outlets. There are a wide number and types of outlets available to connect with various markets. While it will become increasingly easy to get information out into the public eye, the challenge will be to maintain reputability and successfully target the correct audience segments.

As you can see, technology has and will continue to have a major impact on the PR industry. While the goals of PR customers haven’t changed — increased leads, inquiries, sales, etc., — the means by which those goals are pursued have expanded so that a PR firm must strive to provide more robust and holistic service offerings.

How are the lines blurring between your advertising, PR—and other—communication efforts?


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